Tennessee Man Accused of ‘Gruesome’ Mass Killing Once Set Neighbor’s House on Fire

Tennessee man accused of beating 7 people to death once set neighbor’s house on fire

Michael Lee Cummins, 25, of Westmoreland, is suspected of killing six people in one home and a seventh victim at a second location. 

David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said Monday during a news conference that the “gruesome” mass killing was one of the worst he’d ever seen. He said the crime has shocked the small, close-knit community of about 2,200 where the victims lived. 

“Coming from an agency where we work some pretty horrific scenes … it is certainly one of the most difficult and horrific ones in recent times, and certainly at a level that is unprecedented,” Rausch said.

Sumner County Sheriff Sonny Weatherford, who has been in office for nearly 40 years, expressed similar sentiments. 

“This is one of the worst things I’ve ever been involved with in Sumner County,” Weatherford said. “I’ve never seen anything that would even come close to this.” 

>> Related story: 7 victims found dead in Tennessee, suspect captured after manhunt

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation identified three of the victims as David Carl Cummins, 51, the suspect’s father; Clara Jane Cummins, 44, the suspect’s mother; and his uncle, 45-year-old Charles Edward Hosale. 

Killed alongside Cummins’ family members at the mobile home on Charles Brown Road in Westmoreland were Rachel Dawn McGlothlin-Pee, 43, and her 12-year-old daughter, Sapphire McGlothlin-Pee, as well as Rachel’s mother, Marsha Elizabeth Nuckols, 64. 

Family members of the victims described Rachel McGlothlin-Pee as Hosale’s girlfriend, according to NewsChannel 5 in Nashville. It appeared that all of the victims lived in the home. 

A seventh victim, Shirley B. Fehrle, 69, was found dead in her own home at 1555 Luby Brown Road. Fehrle had no known relationship to Cummins, TBI officials said. 

Watch Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Sumner County officials speak about the Westmoreland mass killings below. 

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An eighth victim, a female relative of Michael Cummins, was hospitalized in critical condition, TBI officials said. Though investigators have not publicly identified her, her family identified her to NewsChannel 5 as Michael Cummins’ grandmother, Mary Sue Hosale. 

Mary Sue Hosale remained hospitalized Tuesday. 

All seven victims died of blunt force trauma, according to The Tennessean. Dr. Feng Li, the chief medical examiner for Davidson County, also found sharp force injuries on some of the victims, indicating they were stabbed.

The weapons used in the slaying have not been identified publicly. Rausch cited the ongoing investigation as the reason for withholding the information. 

Cummins, who was shot by authorities as he was captured following a manhunt, also remained hospitalized Tuesday, The Tennessean reported. He has not been charged in the deaths but is in police custody on a probation violation from his previous arson case. 

NewsChannel 5 reported that Cummins’ probation officer was preparing an arrest warrant for probation violations on Friday -- the day before the massacre was discovered. 

‘Saving a bullet for himself’

TBI officials said the homicide investigation began around 5:30 p.m. Saturday evening when a Cummins family member called 911 after finding four of the victims in the home at 1177 Charles Brown Road. Mary Sue Hosale was rushed to a hospital. 

Rausch said Monday that investigators believe the slayings likely took place over multiple days. 

Carlotta Clinard, sister of Clara Cummins and Charles Hosale and daughter of Mary Hosale, described finding the bodies when she went to the mobile home because she could not reach her mother. She said she and her boyfriend, Timothy Meadows, found the front door barricaded with a bed. 

Michael Lee Cummins, 25, is suspected of killing six people found beaten to death in their Westmoreland, Tenn., home Saturday, April 27, 2019, including his parents, uncle and a 12-year-old girl. The home, shown three days later, has its doors and windows covered. A seventh victim was found dead in her home about a mile away. A surviving victim, identified by family members as Cummins’ grandmother, was left in critical condition.
Photo: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

When they pushed their way in, she saw a body and ran back outside, Clinard said. Meadows went further into the home.

Meadows told NewsChannel 5 the victims were “purple and blue,” except for Mary Hosale, who “still had color.” 

“You might see it at a war scene; there was blood, there were lacerations, it was awful, it was uncanny, I don’t know how to explain it,” Meadows told the news station. “I can’t explain the way I seen it. It was so terrible I don’t even want to remember it.”

Clinard told NewsChannel 5 she did not recognize her mother when she was carried from the home alive. Meadows said it appeared the elderly woman had also been bludgeoned. 

As investigators worked the initial crime scene, they learned that Fehrle was found dead in her home on Luby Brown Road, located about a mile away. 

Four of the Charles Brown crime scene victims were found immediately, but the final two bodies were not found until Sunday, as crime scene investigators combed the home for evidence. 

Jennifer Hall, supervisor of the TBI’s Nashville crime lab, said the crime scene where the six victims were found was extremely complex.

“We have to have a perspective that is fresh and scientific for each victim that is represented. It is our due diligence to approach them all separately and individually,” Hall said Monday. “For this reason, when you have six victims in one home, it takes a very long time to process that scene.”

She said the length of time it takes to process a scene of that scale is why two of the bodies were not found sooner. 

“Whenever we work a crime scene, we always approach it from the entry to the interior,” Hall said. “It was simply processing all of that evidence prior to getting back to that area. Unfortunately, we can’t just go in and take care of the victims first. We have to consider the scene and the integrity of the evidence and work it in a systematic, methodical manner. So, unfortunately, it just took us that long to get back to that area.” 

The Tennessean reported that court documents filed Monday in the case allege Cummins was spotted wearing a bloodstained shirt over the weekend. Acquaintances told investigators Cummins said he was “saving a bullet for himself.”

Two people also told authorities Cummins had stolen a car, the arrest affidavit said. According to police, a car found abandoned was registered to Fehrle, the newspaper said

Rausch praised the state and local collaboration that went into both processing the scenes and catching Cummins, who was spotted from the air Saturday night hiding in a creek bed about a mile from the first crime scene.  

“The apprehension of the suspect was critical, for the safety of Sumner County and all others,” Rausch said. “We are very proud of the aviation assets that were utilized, both by TBI and the Tennessee Highway Patrol on this incident. Our airplane, that we have been criticized for, quite frankly, proved its value this weekend.”

The officer-involved shooting of Cummins is also under investigation, Rausch said. 

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch, center, speaks at a news conference at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Monday, April 29, 2019, in Nashville, regarding the case of Michael Lee Cummins. Cummins, 25, is suspected of killing six people found beaten to death in their Westmoreland home Saturday, including his parents, uncle and a 12-year-old girl. A seventh victim was found dead in her home about a mile away. A surviving victim, identified by family members as Cummins’ grandmother, was left in critical condition.
Photo: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

‘He’s an animal’

Weatherford told reporters Monday that Cummins was most recently released from jail on Jan. 19. He declined to go into detail of the prior conviction, but court records obtained by The Tennessean paint a picture of Cummins’ criminal history. 

His most recent arrest stemmed from a Sept. 13, 2017, arson at his next-door neighbor’s home. Court documents indicate that he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for setting the fire but was placed on 10 years of probation as part of a deal in which he pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated arson and aggravated assault. 

The probation was allowed despite some haunting words Cummins told a deputy as he was arrested. 

“If I get out of jail, I’ll go there and do it again,” Cummins told the deputy, according to the arrest warrant obtained by the newspaper. “When I get out, I’ll finish the job.”

The victim in that case, Pam Sanabria, told The Tennessean a visit to her daughter in Kentucky over the weekend is likely the only reason she wasn’t among Cummins’ alleged victims in the mass killing.

“I wasn’t here, and that’s probably why I stayed alive,” a tearful Sanabria told the newspaper

Sanabria, from whom Cummins was ordered to stay away as part of his sentence in the 2017 case, told The Tennessean that he never stuck to that order after he was released. Sumner County deputies told her to record any interaction with Cummins so she would have proof to have his probation revoked. 

Sanabria said she drove up to her home on Charles Brown Road Saturday and heard a “commotion” from next door. She took her cellphone and began recording.

Instead of an interaction with Cummins, she recorded the horror of Clinard and Meadows discovering the first four victims of the mass slayings.

“There was no reason this should have happened,” Sanabria said of the homicides. “It’s just horrible.”

Law enforcement officials work at a command center set up at North Sumner Elementary School Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Bethpage, Tenn., as they search for homicide suspect Michael Lee Cummins. Cummins, 25, is suspected of killing six people found beaten to death in their Westmoreland home Saturday, including his parents, uncle and a 12-year-old girl. A seventh victim was found dead in her home about a mile away. A surviving victim, identified by family members as Cummins’ grandmother, was left in critical condition.
Photo: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Aside from violating his probation by becoming a suspect in the slayings, Cummins also violated his probation before the killings, in part, by failing to undergo a mental health evaluation, The Tennessean reported

It was not the first time a mental evaluation was ordered for the man. In 2012, an evaluation was ordered after he was found in a parking lot with a 17-year-old girl who had a protective order against him. 

According to The Tennessean, he was arrested the following August after his aunt called deputies and told them he was “destroying the house and throwing things at her.” Cummins told investigators he became angry because he felt his aunt had accused him of stealing cash. 

He “blacked out” in anger and began trashing the home, the court records show. His aunt told deputies she feared for her safety.

In February 2017, Cummins was charged with stealing a turkey and a camera from a neighbor’s home. He pleaded guilty, was placed on supervised probation and was ordered to complete mental health treatment, The Tennessean reported

That May, he was charged with domestic assault and robbery for going to his mother’s home -- where he was no longer allowed -- and forcibly stealing her purse and medication, the newspaper said. He later pleaded guilty to the domestic assault charge.

That was his last arrest before he set Sanabria’s home on fire four months later. Luckily, Sanabria smelled smoke and went outside to find her home in flames. 

The arrest warrant shows he pushed her to the ground and started pulling her hair when she attempted to douse the blaze, The Tennessean reported.  

Sanabria told the newspaper her problems with Cummins began shortly after she moved in back in 2005, when she said he began stealing from her to feed a drug habit. When she installed new locks on her door, he broke out all her windows. 

Two days before the arson, he stood outside in the rain and threatened to kill her, Sanabria told the paper. 

The distraught neighbor said Cummins would sometimes walk the neighborhood with a machete or other large knife. Neighbors reported seeing him walking around with a rifle a few days before the bodies of his family members were found, Sanabria said. 

“You don’t know how many fights I’ve seen,” Sanabria told The Tennessean. “That was normal for me. That whole place was nothing but chaos.”

Sanabria said David and Clara Cummins were “pretty good country people,” but they could not control their son’s behavior. 

“He’s an animal,” she told the newspaper. “A nightmare, and I told them both he would kill them one day when he did what he did to me.”

A Cummins family member told NewsChannel 5 that Michael Cummins, who reportedly had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression, would often talk of hurting himself or others. 

“I guess we wanted to numb out of our minds that he wouldn’t,” Meadows told the news station. “We wanted to believe that he loves his family enough that he wouldn’t do that.”

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